Concert Review: Tribute To The Roots, Ponsonby Social Club, 18 June 2020

The Ponsonby Social Club audience were treated to a night of super Hip-Hop Funk Jazz from Tribute to the Roots, alumni of Yoko-Zuna minus one and a plus one.

Kenji Iwamitsu-Holdaway plays electric guitar and bass guitar. Kenji has been the guitarist with Mitch James in recent times and played at the recent Six60 Western Springs concert earlier this year.  Jy is a very talented multi-instrumentalist playing keyboards, flute and saxophone tonight. Swap Gomez is the equally talented drummer. These are the ‘Zuna’s

Guy Harrison is the plus one, a member of Latinaotearoa. Plays keyboards with jazz chops to the fore.

Tonight, they are jamming and improvising to the music of a legendary Hip-Hop Jazz group called The Roots.

Formed in Philadelphia in the mid 1980’s by two high school friends Amir “Questlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter. They were pioneers at blending Jazz with Hip-Hop. They managed to gain attention initially in London before widespread fame beckoned.

A breakthrough album was Things Fall Apart in 1999. Early on their music contained a lot of James Brown influence, which of course is foundation source material for all Hip-Hop. They have showcased a large number of vocalists and Rappers over the years. In 2009 they took residency as Jimmy Fallons house band.   

The guys kick off with You Got Me. A flute solo and then funk bass and drums kick in. Kenji is playing a five-string electric bass, the extra string provides a low sonic tone.

Next is Here I Come. Funk bass lines very similar to The JB’s, then jazzy keyboards and saxophone solos. The band locks in the rhythm and then we hear an extended workout as they stretch out.

We are treated to a night of jamming and superlative improvisation.

Table of Contents starts with a Seventies soul sound on keyboards. Bass guitar anchors the beat with human metronome drumming reminding me of the late John Jabo Starks. Then a keyboard solo Brian Auger style.

Guest vocalist Rapper tonight is Mazbou Q. Born in the United Kingdom, of Nigerian and New Zealand roots. He is a Hip-Hop artist who specialises in an Afrocentric sound which has brought him recent recognition. Toured the UK in 2019 to enthusiastic support. He is also a prolific producer.

He also has been influenced by The Roots. His Rap vocals contain a lot of socio-political content.

On The Fire, a mournful urban sax introduces the rap about one time in America.

Doing it Again starts with a seventies R’n’B vocal before breaking into Rap. A strong and soulful voice. The sax finishes this one with blasts of high pure tones.

Guns Are Drawn has the electric guitar instead of bass. The sax is also played to sound like a guitar in tone. Social Rap, the virtues of staying sober.

Very impressive vocalist. Mazbou Q has a new EP just out, Afroternity, worth checking out.

Night concludes with Antiquity. A tune from the highly regarded J Dilla, which The Roots covered as favourite of theirs, and the guys give us an exhilarating version tonight.

Great tribute to a legendary Jazz Hip-Hop group.

They are planning another tribute night soon, possibly in two weeks. At the Ponsonby Social Club and I would like to pay tribute to their organising of these shows since the Lockdown lifted.

How about a name for this jamming band? The Zuna’s?

Rev Orange Peel